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Understanding the US-China Rivalry

Five recent books offer five different but often overlapping explanations for how Sino-American relations have reached such a parlous state. Taken together, they suggest that while America may have overdone its previous policy of engagement, it would be a dangerous mistake to go too far in the other direction.

MILAN – The war in Ukraine has not changed America’s strategic priorities. China, not Russia, remains the greatest challenge to the liberal order. “China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained in a recent speech. “Beijing’s vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years.”

Still, the events in Ukraine have further deepened the diplomatic and political divide between the two great powers. Immediately before Russia’s invasion, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that the Chinese-Russian relationship had “no limits,” and he has since refused to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s neo-imperialist aggression.

Equally, the West’s sweeping sanctions against Russia were designed not only to punish the Kremlin but also to send an early warning to China’s leaders who may be contemplating an attack on Taiwan. The escalation of tensions over US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the island have now widened the divide even further.